Organize your own music, photos and videos in a beautiful media library; it does not have to be a witchcraft. With Plex, the job is done quickly and your library is also available on many different devices.
A nice media library
Playing media files from your NAS or a location on your computer can be quite a hassle. Either you keep a part of your files on a USB stick or hard drive that you then plug into your Blu-ray player or television. Or you use DLNA, most media players and televisions offer a DLNA client. But whichever of these two solutions you choose, there are some fundamental problems. Anyone who relies on USB media must of course regularly copy the desired media. And both the USB and DLNA solution presents your media in a terribly ugly way, in essence you simply browse the folders and files. Granted, DLNA offers slightly more options, but it remains a text interface. Finally, the support of all kinds of different formats can never be guaranteed, especially if you also use external subtitles.
Plex or Kodi?
Is there no solution that presents your media in a beautiful graphical environment? Absolutely, there are even two solutions: Kodi (where we wrote about ) and Plex. Both offer a very nice graphical interface, and they can play media that you offer locally or via the network. Many other properties are also largely parallel. How do they differ mainly?
Client / server or stand-alone
Plex uses a client-server model. Somewhere in your network you install the server software, which can be on a PC, but also a NAS can serve as a server. The full list of devices that can serve as a server can be found here . You then install a client on each device where you wish to enjoy your media. These are available for all smart TV platforms (LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony), but also for Apple TV, Android or iOS smartphones and tablets, Playstation and Xbox, and your PC (a complete list can be found here ).
Kodi, originally known as XBMC (Xbox Media Center) runs as a stand-alone application on a device, for example your PC, your TV or a specific media player that you have equipped with Kodi. There is no support for Samsung, Panasonic or LG, but for Sony and Philips since they run on Android TV. The full list of supported platforms can be found here . An important consequence of this arrangement is that you do not have access to your Kodi library on other devices.
Addons and customization
Kodi is an open source project and excels with a huge range of third-party addons. Plex has a much more limited range (and Plex wants to abolish plugins in the long term). In Kodi you can change the view of the player with numerous themes and skins, in Plex that is not possible.
Both Plex and Kodi can transcode media on-the-fly. If the media format is not native playable on the client, it is transcoded to a supported format in real-time. At Kodi this happens naturally locally on the client and therefore you rely on the processing power of the client. At Plex, however, that happens on the server. That means that you should opt for more powerful server hardware, so that the transcodes run smoothly. On the other hand, any client, no matter how light he is equipped, can easily play all your media.
Kodi is free. That is simple.
Plex uses a Freemium model. The basic functionality (and that is frankly quite extensive) is completely free. You have to pay for a number of features. That can be monthly, yearly or you can even take a lifetime subscription (prices of the Plex pass ). Plex offers regular discounts, so keep that in mind if you want to choose lifetime. Which features are missing if you work for free:
- play on mobile devices, though you can enable that per device for a small price (4.33 € on Android)
- Automatically tag and upload your photos from a mobile device  Sync with mobile devices so you can watch / listen offline.
- Lyrics and automatic mixes of your music based on tunings
- Multiple users set up, parental control
- Full list here or for more info here .
In other words you can easily start with the free version. If you want to try out the premium features, you can do this for 30 days.
You only need one client, for example a specific Home Theater PC, and you want maximum freedom by using addons, skins and themes then Kodi is possibly the best choice. Remember that whoever likes to tinker with the installation should make it a hobby. Kodi can sometimes be quite complex.
If you want to enjoy all your media on multiple clients, Plex is the absolute best choice. And even if you only have one client, but you still want a ready-to-use product, then we really recommend Plex.
Organize your media
Although Plex is very smart at recognizing your media it is best to start with a well-organized list of media. Put all your films together in a folder, best with subfolders per film (handy if you want to group subtitles and possibly own posters), and use the title of the film as filename together with the year in which the film was released.
For example : Films Atomic Blonde Atomic Blonde (2017) .mkv
You also bring TV series together in a folder, with a separate leaflet per series and below that a separate leaflet per season. Set the season and episode number in the file title.
For example: TV Series Game of Thrones Season 01 GameOfThrones – S01E01.mkv
Do you have 'specials' of a TV series (official interviews or special episodes), put it in a Season 0 and check TheTVDB which episode number you have to give them.
Use your external subtitle files to give them the same name as the file they belong to and put a language code on them
For example: Atomic Blonde (2017) .en.srt for English and Atomic Blonde (2017) .nl.srt for Dutch
For extensive help you can go to the very good support pages of Plex. Here you find everything about how to prepare your media.
Install Plex Server
Download the Plex server software for your chosen server platform here . If you choose to install the server on your NAS, you can often use the built-in App Store of your NAS. If your server has to do a lot of transcode work, it will benefit from a powerful CPU. A lot of NAS hardware is a bit too light for that, but there are NAS models that can do this perfectly. An Intel Core i3 or i5 is a minimum. For more specifications you can go here .
After the installation you start the Plex server. Then open the server page, go to the taskbar, right-click on the Plex icon and select 'Open Plex'.
Then create an account on Plex and log in. The first step is to add a library. Click on 'Add Library', and select the type. In our example we select 'Movie'
Click on 'Add Folders' on the left and select the folder where all your movie files are. You can specify multiple locations for a library. You can leave the Advanced settings as they are.
Plex now starts to search your entire film folder, and retrieves information and images for each film. Depending on how large your library is, this may take some time.
On any PC in your network you can use the Web App (surf to https://plex.app. TV ) to view your media. But you can also use the full plex app.
On Apple TV, game consoles and smart TV platforms, you simply search the Plex client in the app store. A few clicks later you are on the login screen of the App.
Linking your client to your account is very simple. Go to https: \ plex.tv link and enter the code shown on the screen of the client.
See, you can enjoy all your movies and TV series
Anyone with a large film collection should definitely learn to use 'collections'. So you can group all Disney movies, Marvel Comics Universe, DC Universe, Star Wars, and so on. Open your movie library. Select a movie that belongs in the collection (you can select multiple by holding the 'Control' key). Click the Edit button at the top right (pencil symbol).
Select 'Tags' on the left and scroll down until you see 'Collections'. Type the name of the collection and done. Of course you can also add films one by one in the same way.
Finally, in Settings, -> Manage, -> Libraries you can configure how the Collections are displayed. You can choose to see both the collections and the films that are part of it in your library, or you can hide films that are part of a collection, so that you only see the collection in your library.
A tip such as the use of Collections is only the tip of the iceberg. Using all the functions of Plex fully is something that you gradually learn. But the ease of use is impressive, and that is the big advantage. If you are looking for specific information about a subject or institution, you can also visit the excellent support website . In addition to very complete faqs and clear articles about all the important parts of Plex, you will also find a very active forum. Have fun!
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